Earthworks at an Ōpua boatyard at the centre of a decades-long stoush over a public reserve have raised neighbours' hackles but the owner says the work is consented and will create a boatyard that's better for the environment.
In January last year Doug Schmuck, owner of Doug's Ōpua Boatyard, applied to the Northland Regional Council for consent to, among other things, replace an existing wharf with a new one twice the width, carry out dredging, and use the coastal marine area for minor vessel maintenance.
He has had consent to reconstruct a slipway, used to winch boats out of the water, since 2002.
Public hearings were held in Paihia in August with independent commissioner Rob Lieffering granting the consents, with a raft of conditions, in November last year.
In March 2020 Schmuck also sought an earthworks permit from the Far North District Council to reduce the gradient of the existing slipway and remove contaminated soil from the boatyard site and adjoining Wall's Bay reserve. That permit was also granted.
The new slipway will be in a trench with walls up to 1m high within the reserve rising to 1.5m, topped by a 1m parapet, within the boatyard.
Ōpua resident Mike Rashbrooke said plans submitted to the regional council showed Schmuck intended to make use of a 13m-wide corridor where the slipway crossed an esplanade reserve. Previously issued consents limited his use of the reserve to a 7m-wide corridor.
''He can do what he wants on his own land of course, but on the reserve he'd need a fresh consent [to make the slipway wider].''
Rashbrooke said the trench would create a barrier to people using the reserve.
He believed Schmuck was trying to transfer as much boatyard work as possible to the wharf and slipway corridor to free up space on his own land for a house.
Schmuck, however, dismissed the claims and said the work was ''totally'' consented.
The site had been inspected this week with neither council finding any issues, bar some loose material on the slipway which he had removed.
The working surface of the new slipway would be 6.5m wide though the sloping walls would make it a little wider.
Schmuck said his aim was to create a fully contained working area protecting the surroundings from dust and contaminants.
All contaminated surface soil in the boatyard and reserve had been removed and taken to a certified landfill at significant cost.
''So the reality is they're talking a load of nonsense. It's a huge step forward for a very small boatyard,'' he said.
With one boat cradle instead of four the number of vessels he could work on per year in the new boatyard would be cut from about 120 to 35.
Regional council regulatory services manager Colin Dall said staff did not observe any consent breaches during Tuesday's inspection.
The council was aware earthworks were being carried out to lower the slipway, and had previously determined the work was a permitted activity under regional plan rules so a regional council consent wasn't required.
However, because the soil under the slipway was contaminated, a consent was required for the earthworks from the district council.
Schmuck, Rashbrooke, the Ōpua Coastal Preservation Society and other local groups have been at loggerheads for decades.
Last year Schmuck won a 25-year legal battle when the Supreme Court ruled that easements granted by the district council for use of the reserve were valid.
The court ordered the society to pay legal costs of $20,145 to Schmuck and $17,954 to the district council. The Advocate understands the society will be liquidated which means the bills are unlikely to be paid.